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Species Odyssey – 4th Episode

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Just recently I saw again the superb documentary Jacques Malaterre made under the scientific direction of Yves Coppens, entitled “A Species Odyssey”, which retraces the key stages in the evolution of humanity: learning to walk on our hind legs, the creation of the first tools, controlling fire…

We have just experienced another key step.

Undoubtedly, when in the future scientists look back upon the odyssey of our species, they will note as one of the turning points in our history the day when the first economic transaction concerning a so-called “virtual” object occurred (it was probably a transaction on Ebay of a weapon from the game World of Warcraft, I don’t know the nature or the date of this transaction. Can anyone tell me?)

When the first commercial exchange of a “virtual” object occurred our reality underwent a fundamental change: a new layer was added to and introduced within the reality we had known so far. The virtual dimension took on its full meaning from the moment that it could be the object of a transaction between individuals, thus going beyond the confines of the world of games.

Our universe gained a new dimension tending towards the infinite, a new space for exchange, work, creativity, socialising, and of course new discoveries. It is certain that our society is going to be fundamentally affected by this.

The first transaction concerning a virtual object will certainly affect our history more than man’s first step on the moon: in the end, three people were sent to the moon 37 years ago, and one of them remained in the space craft while the others just walked about on the surface a little, planted a flag and left. Nine others followed between 1969 and 1972, and we haven’t returned since… That space is empty and cold, and robots are more at home there than human beings are. However, the new space born of the interlocking of our former reality with that of the virtual world is profoundly human.

To end this note, I would like to give two concrete examples seen from my angle as an entrepreneur:
. work in a virtual environment is going to develop, for example via meetings in which avatars will meet in more appropriate places (a little sexier than our drab video-conferences), cf the announcement of the arrival of Leo Burnett in Second Life in the SLObserver blog,
. pupils in secondary school interested in architecture today should really ask themselves whether instead of focusing on traditional architecture in which the resistance of materials plays an important role they might not study the architecture of living and working spaces in virtual environments. (The ideal thing would be for architecture courses to very quickly acknowledge an architecture free of the constraints of “First Life” and to include it in the curriculum).

P.S.: Another key date, even if it remains more technical, would be November the 14th 2003, the day when Linden Lab, the creator of the virtual universe of Second Life, decided to assign to players the intellectual property of all the objects they created in this universe. Concerning the sale of virtual objects, see the very complete article by Aurélien Pfeffer on the jeuxonline site.

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